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A Score for That

Genome-wide association studies have uncovered scores of variants linked to disease, sometimes with tiny effects, and as Nature News reports, bundling them together into polygenic risk scores may be able to distinguish people's disease risk. However, it adds that the approach is not without controversy.

Some scores combine a ton of SNPs, it notes. For instance, Massachusetts General Hospital's Sekar Kathiresan and his colleagues devised a polygenic risk score for coronary artery disease that included more than 6 million SNPs. While he says that his work shows that such scores could be applied to the clinic, others note that only a portion of those SNPs likely have an effect on disease and including ones that don't add value could affect public trust in scores, according to Nature News.

Nature News adds that others worry about how polygenic risk scores might be applied, particularly in non-medical realms. Earlier this year, an international team of researchers developed a score that predicts academic performance, though they said they were not suggesting that it be used to identify people for interventions.

Additionally, many of the polygenic risk scores developed so far have relied on studies largely conducted among people of European ancestry and might not be as reliable for people from different backgrounds, Nature News says.